Creative & cool restaurant names: How to name a restaurant without hiring a naming expert

Where have all the good names gone? It certainly seems like all the great restaurant names are already hard at work for someone else. New business owners have even gone so far as to hire naming experts. But this restaurant is all about you, and you don't need someone else to think up a fantastic name. There are a ton of good restaurant names that aren’t taken, and you don’t have to hire a professional to help you find them. 

With 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S., it's no surprise that it's a challenge to find a unique business name.

Read on here to get the inspiration, resources, and guidance that you need on how to start a restaurant and find a cool and creative name for it.


Get the basics right for a cool restaurant business name

There are a few basic rules that can help you find a name that will work for years to come and help you rule out restaurant name suggestions. You’ll want to go through the essential steps of selecting a business name:

  • Make sure the name isn’t already in use by checking government or third party business registries.

  • Tie the name to your concept or cuisine. Your name should communicate what you do.

  • Rule out tongue-twisters or other hard to say names. 

  • Test if your ideas are easy to remember by asking others to recall them. 

These four essential elements can help you steer away from taken names and just bad names in general. There isn't a lot that goes into learning how to write names for a restaurant. That isn't to say that it's easy, only that there aren't a lot of rules or restrictions. You have a huge opportunity to be creative and to let your personality or your brand personality shine while addressing what good restaurant names need.

How to start brainstorming for your business name

To get the creative juices pumping, you should start with some good old brainstorming. Some of the best restaurant names will pop up during this step, but you’ll need to go through a lot of exploration and experimentation to find the name for your eatery. 

So how do you brainstorm? Start by writing down words or phrases that come to mind when you think of:

  • Your menu

  • The ambiance or vibe you want for your diners

  • The cuisine that inspires you

  • Family members, or your future family legacy

  • People or famous figures that inspired you

  • Ideas from online from photos, articles, blogs, or similar

  • Your neighborhood or the neighborhood of the future location

Good restaurant names listed here all stem from some of these elements:

  • The Crossing – for restaurants near railroads or historic rail lines

  • Yard – everyday slang in the UK

  • Gregg Steaks 

  • York’s Hash House 

It’s clear that from just brainstorming, they're not exceptionally unique ideas. You want to have a starting point that you can refer back to as you develop your name and brand.

Use restaurant name generators to spark ideas. 

Name generators are online tools that either through AI or user-submissions provide a long list of possible good restaurant name ideas. If your brainstorming session didn't go over so well, then it might be time to use these kinds of tools.

When using a restaurant name ideas generator, be sure that you use them for inspiration, and not just taking the names and changing the spelling. Spelling business names “creatively” is one of the top mistakes in business naming. Imagine if you named a place ‘Weesabi’ or ‘Pattye.’

With any of the online generators, you can get answers to the hot question, “What are some catchy restaurant names?” A few services even allow you to aim for clever or funny names. Not only do services such as Namelix.com, help in finding clever options, but sites such as MithrilandMages.com can help even though it's for fantasy writing.

Try these other sites too:

  • Businessnamegenerator.com – for restaurants

  • Ultimate Restaurant Name Generator on Buzztime.com

  • Fantasynamegenerators.com restaurant generator

  • Namebounce.com

Use restaurant name generators to get a good restaurant names list going, and then return to each possibility later. One that sounds great now might have issues later such as, Morgan Michael’s on Main. The example is snappy, but it doesn’t communicate what you do, and it’s a bit of a tongue twister.

Weigh business name options from different languages 

Some of the best restaurants pull from languages that have some tie to the owner or cuisine style. Famous Haute-French cuisine restaurant Les Amis is in Singapore, where there is a long history of French presence, but it's not the spoken language. The phrase 'Les Amis' means 'The Friends', and the establishment has long cultivated a friendship between the French cuisine and Singapore culture.

Asian restaurant names. 

Asian inspired restaurant names often pull from a combination of the cuisine and culture to establish what they do. To get inspiration for an Asian food shop, go back to your brainstorming technique and find words that stem from a particular country, the authentic cuisine, or the culture. Your brainstorming for exciting or cool restaurant names that aren’t used with Asian influence might include:

  • Sun

  • Duck

  • Bowl

  • Jade

  • Szechuan

  • Mongolian

  • Peking

  • Hot Pot

These possible words should lead you to some great ideas after you combine them with other winning elements of a name. For example, you might use a pun to make it more memorable, like Peking Order. Or, you could use alliteration such as Bangkok Bowl.  

Chinese restaurant names, in particular, can go wrong quickly because they’re usually far from unique. Many use wok, garden, house, or star, and those aren’t bad words to use it will just make it very hard to stand out. 

Cho Dang Gol is a well-known Korean establishment in New York City, that has stepped away from the overly popular BBQ model. Instead, they serve rustic Korean cuisine, and Cho Dang Gol means 'Tofu House.'

Be careful with attempting to translate or use foreign symbols. For example, with Japanese restaurant names, you might fall into the trap of using one of their three writing systems incorrectly if you choose to use Japanese lettering. Avoid fake restaurant names by checking the name with someone fluent in that language. 

French restaurant names

It’s almost a must to have a French-inspired name if you have a French restaurant. Turn to a reliable translator and start plugging in some of the words that came up during your brainstorming session. One wonderful thing about looking for a French name is that there are so many phrases and terms in French that refer to different elements of a dining experience. Here are a few:

  • En brochette – food cooked on skewers similar to kebabs

  • Petit four – relating to small and fancy baked goods

  • Le pain – bread

  • Raconter des salades – an idiom translating to "to tell salad," which means to lie.  

Greek restaurant names

 Another cuisine and language combination that relies on its past and culture. Most Greek restaurant names pull from common phrases, Greek gods, and even values. Get inspired by these Greek terms:

  • Gia sas – cheers! 

  • Estiatoria – restaurants that serve oven cooked goods

  • Tis oras – grilled items cooked to order

  • Psistaria – restaurants that use spit-roast grills

Indian restaurant names

Look toward India’s most startling features and cultural elements. Along with the names of traditional dishes such as Masala, Naan, and Samosa, you can look at their rich culture. Look to Bollywood, Taj Mahal, or Amber Palace for more inspiration. 

Italian restaurant names

There is no shortage of Italian eateries, and that makes it even more challenging to find a good name. Fortunately, Italian has a natural rhythm and bounce to it. That makes for memorable, easy to say, and interesting restaurant names. Start by considering a few Italian translations and keep in mind that you want to convey what your restaurant does too.

Sotto Mare is a must-try Italian eatery in San Francisco that serves a specific type of Italian seafood very similar to an Asian hot pot style of soup. The name Sotto Mare means ‘under the sea.’ 

Mexican restaurant names

Explore the unique corn-based foods and rich history of Aztecan cooking techniques. Play with possibilities such as A Maize-ing Tamales. Many Mexican restaurants also turn to their location for inspiration. La Michoacana is an excellent example. This ice cream chain started in the state of Michoacán. 

Spanish restaurant names 

Not to be confused with Mexican ideas, often turn to family names, restaurant types, and staples in Spanish life. Siestas, tapas, and last names reign supreme in Spanish eatery names.

El Cellar de Can Roca is a family-owned restaurant in Spain, and Roca is the family's last name. It translates to the Roca's cellar. Wine is a famously part of Spanish culture.  

Play with puns and references for a cool name

Puns and references are both fun and memorable, but they can take a good deal of thought. Look at the movies, music, and books that you love. Or, look for different words that you can play on to create clever restaurant names. 

Puns and references can create many branding opportunities. Buffalo Wild Wings is an excellent example, referencing Jessica Simpson’s iconic statement, “I didn’t know buffalo’s had wings.”

For funny restaurant names try to draw a connection between idioms or phrases and common language elements:

  • Half-Baked – for take and bake pizza concepts

  • Feast and Furious

  • The Olive Brunch

  • What a Crepe

  • Keep Calm and Curry On

  • Get Buff(et) 

Choose a name that matches your type of restaurant

Having a name that matches your concept will help you hit your target market. You can still have cute restaurant names, or something trendy while communicating clearly. Naming professionals often overlook this element because they focus too much on creating something trendy.

BBQ restaurant names
Those often use acronyms or people's names. Famous BBQ chains such as Lucille's show that the concept stemmed from someone in particular. Although Lucille's didn't grab its name from B.B. King's guitar, called Lucille, it does pay tribute to the shared name by incorporating a blues joint atmosphere and live blues musicians.

72% of the top brands use made-up words or acronyms, and BBQ is a great place to employ that because you already have an acronym present. PRK (pork), or GBS (Grill, Bar, Sauce) are two examples. 

Breakfast restaurant names 
They also rely on people's names but often go for a catchier spin with Kallie’s Dineror Ned’s Country Kitchen. However, others prefer to take a playful approach, such as Sconehenge or even The Crack House.

A good burger place can liven up a neighborhood, and you need an outstanding name to grab attention. Burger joint restaurant names usually rhyme or have some element of alliteration. Great examples are Bravo Burgers, Golden Grills, or Burger Basement. 

Chicken restaurant names
Those can also be fun with well-known chains such as Raising Cane’s stemming from a nearly lost idiom meaning to cause trouble. When naming a chicken-oriented restaurant, think about your cooking methods; KFC says it all in three words Kentucky Fried Chicken

Healthy restaurant names
They should play up what environment you are creating while serving healthy food. Palm Lunch and Urban Vegan Lounge will clearly provide different dining experiences

Vegan restaurant names
They should follow the same functionality in that the diners need to know if they’re going to a quick-stop diner or a full-service restaurant.

Pizza restaurant names
They have more license to run on for the sake of being fun. References such as Take a Pizza my Heart are often crowd-pleasers.

Seafood restaurant names
Those may need to pull from different languages to convey the type of cuisine. Mar, mare, and meer and variants on "sea." Thalassa is the English pronunciation for the sea in Greek. Using the language to communicate the cuisine is a great starting point for seafood places. 

Be unique on the restaurant landscape 

What are some nice restaurant names? You can come up with a list of hundreds of excellent names, but you want something unique, catchy, and memorable. It's often not enough to throw your name or last name onto the restaurant and hope it will work. Take time to brainstorm, explore different languages, play with references, and, most importantly, use your concept to your advantage.

If you need investors to get your restaurant open, you must put even more importance into naming your place. 82% of investors report that they look at name recognition before making any investment decision. 

Before you finalize the name for your restaurant, you’ll want to go through all of your unique restaurant name ideas. Make sure that a trademark, website, and social media accounts for that name are available because you don't want something that is already taken. Then test out which of your creative restaurant names would fit best with you, your diners, and your branding. You can accomplish all of this without a naming professional!


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